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Week Six SEC Recap

By Matt Smith
SouthernPigskin.com
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Matt Smith looks back on week six in the SEC.

Scores

(5) LSU 42, Utah State 6
(10) Florida 24, (7) Auburn 13
Missouri 42, Troy 10
(3) Georgia 43, Tennessee 14
Ole Miss 31, Vanderbilt 6

The Big Story

How about that Florida defense? After taking a backseatto Auburn’s unit all week, the Gators, as a routine sign at The Swamp encourages, worked the Tigers offense silly, frustrating freshman quarterback Bo Nix all game long in a 24-13 win. Auburn’s Derrick Brown will be an All-American on the defensive line, but Florida’s Jonathan Greenard may be joining him, as the transfer edge rusher from Louisville once again wreaked havoc. The Tigers managed just 269 yards of offense after scoring 56 points last week.

Todd Grantham’s defenses are known for bringing pressure from everywhere and confusing young quarterbacks. The windows are there, but they need to be spotted quickly, and the throws have to be accurate. Georgia’s Jake Fromm will move the ball against this defense. He’s a junior. He’s seen it. Bo Nix had no answer for it, and Auburn’s questionable offensive line was exposed for the first time since the first half of the season opener against Oregon.

Florida was largely a mystery coming into Saturday. I thought the Gators would win, but I’m still not sure they belong in the conversation with the top six teams that have separated from the rest of the pack. They have a great coach, an excellent defense, and playmaking wide receivers. I think they’re 10-2 good, but I can’t see Florida being in the playoff mix come the first weekend of December. That could all change next Saturday nightwith a win at LSU.

Top Takeaways

-I wrote this after Auburn’s dramatic comeback win over Oregon five weeks ago regarding Bo Nix: “He’s going to have poor performances going forward, probably at least one that will cost Auburn a game it should win.” That came Saturday. The vaunted Tigers defense gave up two long touchdowns, but was otherwise as advertised, as Auburn forced four fumbles and set its offense up with scoring opportunities. Nix couldn’t capitalize, however, finishing just 11-of-27 with three interceptions.

With this ridiculous schedule, the goal for Auburn all along was to get to its late-season stretch that includes home games with Georgia and Alabama with just one conference loss. The Tigers are 2-1 in league play right now, but getting to 5-1 before the ‘Dawgs come to town, as they were in 2013 and 2017 when they defeated both teams and won the SEC West, will require a win at LSU in three weeks. Auburn hasn’t won in Baton Rouge in 1999, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, the purple and gold Tigers are pretty darn good.

-Were Georgia’s first-half struggles against Tennessee reason for concern? Despite Tennessee leading 14-10 in the second quarter of Saturday night’s game in Knoxville, it never felt like a colossal upset was ever realistic. The Vols have excellent skill position players, and they were able to capitalize on their talents along with a hot young quarterback in first-time starter Brian Maurer to produce two touchdown drives. After that, the Bulldogs defense clamped down, Jake Fromm elevated his play, and they scored the game’s final 33 points to not only win, but cover a 25-point spread, 43-14.

Georgia’s metrics are still outstanding. Yes, they needed time to settle in in both of their last two games, but the reality is that they beat a playoff contender in Notre Dame and won an SEC road game by four touchdowns. Sorry, but that’s not sounding any alarms in my mind. Fromm might be the most accurate quarterback in the country, which has been needed as the Georgia receiving corps continues to be in development mode and nowhere near the level of Clemson or Alabama or even LSU. Home games with South Carolina and Kentucky are next, so the ‘Dawgs should roll into the Cocktail Party against Florida at 7-0 for the second time in three years.

Quick Hitters

-That was progress for Tennessee, despite a ton of issues on the line of scrimmage. The Vols are still fighting, even at 1-4. I think they’ll beat Mississippi State next week, and I’m surprised they’re nearly a full-touchdown home underdog. This team is a mess in the trenches, and bowl chances are still slim, but they landed some punches against Georgia. In his first start, Brian Maurer definitely gave the team and fanbase a spark, hanging tough despite being on his back for much of the night and getting no help from his running game. This week is a big week for the Vols program.

-The Vanderbilt-Ole Miss game was going to be a stock-altering event for both head coaches, but after the Rebels embarrassed the Commodores, 31-6, it’s fair to assess what’s going on with Derek Mason at Vanderbilt and ask some hard questions. The offense is wasting some great skill position talent. Mason promoted Gerry Gdowski from within after offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig left for Utah, and that looks like a mistake. Enough to cost Mason his job? Probably not, but at 1-4, the next seven games for Mason and Vanderbilt will be about figuring out what can still work and what needs to change come December.

-Meanwhile, Matt Luke and Ole Miss earned their second SEC win of the season last night, coming off of a week in which they showed some positive signs in a blowout loss to Alabama. This is an average team, and getting to a bowl is still going to require an upset or two, but things are progressing in Oxford. John Rhys Plumlee looks like the future at quarterback, rushing for 165 yards on a night when three Rebels went over 90 yards. Things are looking like a Rich Rodriguez offense, and the defense is so far ahead of the disaster that it was a year ago. Luke will be back in 2020. The only question now might be if Rodriguez and defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre both return, or if one gets a head coaching job.

-Strong performance from the LSU defense, holding Utah State to just six points. It was another ho-hum, five-touchdown day for Joe Burrow, giving him 22 for the season, one behind Tua Tagovailoa for the nation’s lead. The Tigers cushy portion of their schedule is now done. Florida comes to town next Saturday night. Auburn and Alabama aren’t far off. It’s back to the spotlight for the Tigers after a month removed following their big win at Texas in early September.

-I tend to be pretty conservative with what constitutes a “dirty” hit, but the hit by Troy’s Travis Sailo on Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant was pretty close to being a play that shouldn’t happen. Sailo was on the ground and grabbed Bryant’s lower leg just after Bryant had released the ball. There are no definitive updates on Bryant, but he’s expected to return at some point – maybe next week, maybe in two weeks, maybe in November. With the 4-1 Tigers having Ole Miss at home followed by trips to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, they’re capable of winning the next three games without Bryant. Unfortunately they’re going to have to do it without linebacker and tackling machine and Cale Garrett, who is reportedly out for the season with an upper-body injury suffered against Troy.

-I’m still confused as to why CBS passed on showing Florida-LSU next week. Yes, the Gators were underdogs to Auburn, and Alabama is always a ratings juggernaut, but the Crimson Tide seem likely to roll over Texas A&M next week. Even had the Gators lost, Florida-LSU almost always delivers. The teams despise each other, and each of the past five meetings have been decided by one score. That game will now air on ESPN in primetime, and it was already being promoted heavily during ESPN’s night window on Saturday. My only theory is that this was some sort of concession by CBS to allow them to move the LSU-Alabama game to primetime, something they can’t do on their own after using their one primetime window on Notre Dame-Georgia. Maybe the Aggies make it a game, and I’m proven wrong, but I was left scratching my head last Monday when next weekend’s kickoff times were announced.

Around The Nation

-The most exciting games Saturday came in the ACC Coastal, as Pitt and Virginia Tech both blew huge leads in games that appeared over in the third quarter. The Panthers led Duke 26-3, but the Blue Devils rallied to take a 30-26 lead late in the fourth quarter. Pitt answered with a touchdown with under 30 seconds remaining to survive, 33-30. The Hokies had an even bigger lead, scoring the first 28 points of their game at Miami (FL), but needed a missed extra point by the Hurricanes to remain tied at 35-35 after a Deejay Dallas touchdown run. Virginia Tech responded with a go-ahead touchdown drive, and held off a final Miami drive into the red zone as time ran out. Wild day.

-Two big wins for a pair of Big 12 Matts. Not doormats, as Baylor and Iowa State once were, but for Matt Rhule and Matt Campbell. Rhule’s Bears went on the road to Kansas State and whipped the Wildcats, 31-12, to move to 5-0. Iowa State got back on track after narrow losses to Iowa and Baylor with a resounding 49-24 win over TCU. With Oklahoma State getting blown out at Texas Tech, it looks like Rhule’s and Campbell’s teams are the best bets to prevent an Oklahoma-Texas rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game. Round 1, of course, comes on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl.

-Ohio State just keeps rolling along, as the Buckeyes ran for 323 yards against an excellent Michigan State defense. Justin Fields did throw his first career interception, but still finished a solid 17-of-25 for 206 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses. The defense is the difference this year for Ohio State, however, as the 6-0 Buckeyes now rank fourth in the nation, allowing just 3.69 yards per play. They’ll rest this week before traveling to Northwestern a week from Friday.

-In a parity-deprived era of college football, you have to love the Pac-12. A Stanford team that has looked miserable all season turned it on late Saturday night and upset No. 15 Washington in Palo Alto, 27-17. No. 13 Oregon flirted with disaster against feisty but undermanned Cal, rallying for a 17-7 win. And how about Oregon State? The Beavers dropped UCLA to 1-5 with a convincing 48-31 win in Pasadena and now sit all alone in second place in the Pac-12 North. The Pac-12 South has a surprise team up top as well, as Arizona improved to 2-0 in league play with a road win at Colorado.

-We’ll sadly never get the 3.5 hours back that we spent watching Michigan’s 10-3 win over Iowa. Both offenses were a tough watch, as the final 15 possessions of the game ended with no points. It was a must-win for the 4-1 Wolverines, who should get by Illinois next week before a season-defining stretch of at Penn State and home to Notre Dame. Michigan has plenty of issues, but Don Brown’s defense looked like its mid-2018 version again after being picked apart by Ohio State, Florida and Wisconsin since late last season.

-SMU remained perfect with a huge rally against Tulsa, erasing a 30-9 deficit to force overtime and ultimately winning on the first play of the bottom of the second overtime on a beautiful toe-tapping touchdown reception by James Proche. The Mustangs are now in a group with Appalachian State, Boise State, Cincinnati, Memphis and Tulane as the prime contenders for the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six bowl spot.

-The “Is Clay Helton getting fired?” wheel was not spun this week, as USC was idle. The Trojans visit No. 9 Notre Dame next week, and if Helton can’t pull off a big upset in South Bend, he’ll probably need to sweep the second half of the schedule to see 2020.

-Other teams to catch my eye in Week 6, in a good way: Central Michigan, Louisville, Navy

-Other teams to catch my eye in Week 6, in a bad way: Georgia Tech, Marshall, UConn

Resume Rankings

1. Ohio State
2. Auburn
3. LSU
4. Wisconsin
5. Clemson
6. Florida
7. Georgia
8. Alabama
9. Oklahoma
10. Notre Dame
11. SMU
12. Penn State
13. Texas
14. Oregon
15. Baylor
16. Wake Forest
17. Memphis
18. Boise State
19. Iowa
20. Michigan
21. Utah
22. Minnesota
23. Appalachian State
24. Cincinnati
25. Arizona State

The 5 Week 7 SEC Games I'm Most Interested In

1. No. 7 Florida at No. 5 LSU (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)
2. No. 1 Alabama at No. 24 Texas A&M (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
3. Ole Miss at Missouri (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
4. South Carolina at No. 3 Georgia (Noon ET, ESPN)
5. Mississippi State at Tennessee (Noon ET, SEC Network)

The 5 Week 7 National Games I'm Most Interested In

1. No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Texas (Dallas) (Noon ET, FOX)
2. No. 10 Penn State at No. 17 Iowa (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)
3. USC at No. 9 Notre Dame (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
4. Michigan State at No. 8 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET, BTN)
5. Nebraska at Minnesota (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

Matt Smith - Matt is a 2007 graduate of Notre Dame and has spent most of his life pondering why most people in the Mid-Atlantic actually think there are more important things than college football. He has blogged for College Football News, covering both national news as well as Notre Dame and the service academies. He credits Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel for his love of college football and tailgating at Florida, Tennessee, and Auburn for his love of sundresses. Matt covers the ACC as well as the national scene.